Turkey airport ad accuses Sweden of having 'highest' global 'rape rate'


Sweden has lashed out at the campaign, saying that the advert grossly misunderstands national crime statistics

The advert has appeared in Turkey's main Ataturk airport (Anadolu Agency)
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Last update: 
Friday 19 August 2016 17:05 UTC

A billboard at Istanbul's international airport accused Sweden of having the highest rape rate in the world, state media reported on Friday, just days after Stockholm accused Ankara of legalising sex with children.

Printed in English and Turkish the rape posters have been displayed at the international departures section of Ataturk airport, with a huge advertisement reading: "Travel Warning! Did you know that Sweden has the highest rape rate worldwide?" 

According to government-linked Anadolu Agency, the advert appeared the same day that a pro-government newspaper Gunes published a front page with the headline declaring: "Sweden, a country of rape."

A Turkish official, who declined to be named, said: "It's an ad for Gunes newspaper and not an official notice."

Anadolu said billboard advertisements at the airport were operated by a private company.

Ties between Ankara and Europe have worsened since last month's failed coup, with Turkey accusing its Western allies of insensitivity, saying they were more concerned about a subsequent crackdown than the coup itself.

The advert was largely seen as a tit-for-tat move after Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom caused a storm through a tweet saying the "Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed", following a controversial ruling by the Turkish constitutional court.

Her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu blasted her remark as "unacceptable", saying Wallstrom should have acted "responsibly" while Sweden's charge d'affaires were summoned to the foreign ministry.

The airport ad sparked storm on social media, with several users hitting back at the "propaganda against Sweden" while others agreed with it.

In response, the Swedish embassy in Turkey posted a statement on its website entitled "misconceptions on rape statistics", which said that comparing reports of rape in Sweden with reports in other countries with different legal and statistical systems "does not describe reality correctly". 

The embassy said Sweden has a broad judicial definition of acts that are considered as rape, and uses a broad definition when calculating crime statistics.

"Every single offence is for example recorded separately and all reported events are counted as crimes even if some of them later are found not to have constituted criminal offences," it added.

The controversy with Stockholm erupted earlier this week after Turkey's top constitutional court annulled a criminal code provision punishing as "sexual abuse" all sexual acts involving children under the age of 15, responding to a petition brought by a lower court.

The top court has given parliament a six-month period to draw up new rules based on its ruling.

The lower court that brought the petition was worried there was no distinction between cases of sexual acts involving a young teenager or a toddler.

The legal age of consent in Turkey remains 18 and was not affected by the ruling. But it sparked outrage among activists worried it would open the way for unpunished child sexual abuse.

On Sunday, Turkey summoned Austria's charge d'affaires to protest over a headline on an electronic news ticker at the airport in Vienna that allegedly read, "Turkey allows sex with children under the age of 15". Austrian officials played down the matter as one of freedom of the press.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said the EU should end accession talks with Turkey, prompting Cavusoglu to refer to Austria as the "capital of radical racism".